What are statins and why are they prescribed?
Statins are a class of prescription drugs used to lower overall serum cholesterol and prevent heart disease.
How do statins work?
Statins affect the mevalonate pathway, which is the route involved in the first step of cholesterol production. Statins block an initial enzymatic conversion that is necessary for cholesterol to synthesize.
What’s the problem with Statins?
By blocking the first step in the production of cholesterol, statins inhibit other important bodily functions. This blockage is like a physiological amputation (yes, it is extreme!). Many processes in our body are dependent on the mevalonate pathway, including membrane function, hormone and steroid synthesis. Side effects with statins typically start with muscle aches and pains, overall weakness, brain fog, nerve damage and low libido. Later and more serious side effects reported are Rhabdomlyolysis (a degenerative muscle tissue condition), kidney failure, and liver damage.
The use of statins also depletes the body of another important substance called CoQ10. Like cholesterol, CoQ10 is made in the mevalonate pathway. It is a powerful antioxidant, essential for energy, cellular function, and mental health. CoQ10 also decreases as we get older so incorporating statins into the mix adds another load. Aging is accelerated. Doctors have started to advise statin-taking patients to supplement with CoQ10. Deficiency is associated with many heart problems, aging and chronic fatigue. Hmmm...
Something seems fishy…
So remember when I told you that statins are prescribed to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease? Well, it seems that they are only fulfilling half of their job requirements. While statins lower LDL cholesterol, the research does not indicate that they prevent heart disease.
Check out these numbers and facts. As a point of reference, ideal cholesterol levels are between 150 and 220.
▪ 35% of all heart attack patients have total cholesterol levels below 200.
▪ 50% of heart attack patients have total cholesterol levels below 220.
▪ 50% of heart attack patients have never presented with any of the conventional markers for heart disease.
▪ Statins do not correct or increase levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol) or reduce high triglycerides (fat in your liver from excess sugar and carbohydrates). Many would argue that HDL cholesterol and triglycerides are more effective markers for heart disease than LDL levels.
Another important note, is that the median total cholesterol range for initiating statin drug treatment has gone down significantly over time. This number is determined by the the U.S. National Cholesterol Education Program.
Year: Median total cholesterol range for initiating statin drugs
later in 1990: 200-219
The Annals of Internal Medicine found insufficient evidence to support these numbers in 2006. It was also discovered that 8 of the 9 doctors on the panel of the Cholesterol Education Program were making money from drug companies. If you google "what is the main cause of death in the United States?", heart disease pops up. Even though we're implementing treatment at lower cholesterol levels, heart disease is on the rise.
The value of the cholesterol-lowering drug industry is currently estimated to be about $29 billion. Heart Disease has been the leading cause of death for the past 50 years though. Millions of Americans are taking statins yet still millions of Americans have heart disease and more people are developing heart disease than ever before. Something isn't working. Instead of putting a band-aid on your cholesterol, my recommendation is to address the root cause of your high LDL and start taking ownership of your own health.
Here are a few tips to take care of your heart, lower your LDL and increase your HDL, and hopefully avoid taking statins:
▪ Eliminate processed and packaged foods
▪ Eat green vegetables: zucchini, kale, parsley, dandelion, lettuce, spinach
▪ Cut out artificial sweetener
▪ Don't skip meals
▪ Meditate or do yoga to decrease stress levels
▪ Eliminate candy and sugary sweets. Find healthy sweet alternatives here.
If you want more health tips on lowering your LDL and/or need a refresher on cholesterol, check out Cholesterol 101.